Stop! Look! Listen! by Maren Schmidt on March 30th, 2013
Updated: May 22, 2020
An effective, yet, counter-intuitive teaching and parenting suggestion took me a while to understand and put into use.
The idea? “Don’t just do something; stand there.”
Our first inclination when we see things that we think we need to stop is to jump right in and fix it. One of the interesting discoveries of not doing something and watching instead, is that usually within two to five minutes the child will figure out the situation and self-correction will begin without us having to say a word or lift a finger. (Of course, I’m talking about things other than running into the on-coming traffic or jumping into the river.) Sometimes that self-correction begins as the child realizes that perhaps there was a reason for “don’t get into the cookie jar.” The lid may be too heavy to get back on, or you might be perched on the counter top with no easy way to get down, among many other reasons.
If we stop, look and listen when we find our child into the proverbial cookie jar, versus resorting to punishment or lecturing, we might gain some insight into our child’s actions.
Susan looked out her kitchen window and found most of the bricks gone from her new flowerbed.
Around the corner of the house came four-year-old Caleb, running to get a brick and then disappearing around the corner again.
Susan calmed her initial reaction to run out of the house, yelling and making Caleb stop destroying her new border that she had spent the past Saturday building. Instead she walked to the living room window on that side of the house to see what Caleb was doing.
What she saw was that Caleb had built some steps up a trunk of a tree and was now climbing in the fork of the tree, a tree that his father usually gave him a hands-up to reach these limbs. Caleb was eye-to-eye with a robin’s nest. From his shirt pocket he delicately took out a blue egg and placed it in the nest. Caleb sat in the fork of the tree for a few minutes until a robin flew up and squawked. Caleb made his way back down the tree. As soon as his foot touched the last step Caleb picked up a brick and headed back to the flowerbed. For twenty minutes Caleb carried each brick back to the border, lining up the bricks in the same manner he had watched Susan place them on Saturday. Not perfectly, but he worked with effort.
What did Susan discover by using, stop, look and listen?
Susan saw her four-year-old son as a problem solver, a bird lover, a respecter of life, and a worker who would finish a job he began.
That night at dinner Susan made a comment about how many birds were in the yard since it was spring. She settled in to listen as she asked, “Caleb, what do you think about the birds?”